Are attempts to innovate futile?

Detail from the cover of Switched on Bach by Wendy Carlos.

We have a con­ser­v­a­tive streak when it comes to beer and, these days, find our­selves drawn to weak­er, more straight­for­ward beers most of the time. We like the idea of pre­serv­ing our brew­ing her­itage and believe that there are still pleas­ing but sub­tle vari­a­tions to be found in less showy tin­ker­ing with hops, malt, water and yeast.

We can’t, in all hon­esty, say we’ve loved many self-declared inno­v­a­tive beers – noth­ing bar­rel-aged, for exam­ple, has made our list of favourites; our mouths do now not water at the idea of an Islay lam­bic; and we’re non­plussed by the very idea of black IPA.

We also roll our eyes at brew­ers who describe them­selves as inno­v­a­tive and then… aren’t. They’re like pop groups who say their sound ‘defies cat­e­gori­sa­tion’ while pro­duc­ing mid­dle-of-the-road indie music.

Hav­ing said all of that, we’re delight­ed that there are peo­ple still try­ing gen­uine­ly to inno­vate, even if the results aren’t always instant clas­sics, and we do believe there are new flavours to be shak­en out through exper­i­men­ta­tion. Gar­lic brown­ies, thriller-action wildlife doc­u­men­taries and heavy met­al baroque vir­ginals all sound like worth­while exper­i­ments to us, though we would­n’t want a diet of noth­ing but.

The only way to break new ground is through failed exper­i­ments and doing things that most peo­ple won’t like.

Var­i­ous posts and com­ments this week have led us to pon­der­ing this sub­ject. Here’s Zak Avery on ‘wacky’ beers as part of a bal­anced diet; Velky Al at Fug­gled on his pref­er­ence for beer that tastes of beer with an inter­est­ing com­ment from Ron Pat­tin­son; and Knut Albert on two beers he thinks prove the point that there are new things to be dis­cov­ered.

8 thoughts on “Are attempts to innovate futile?”

  1. The idea of an Islay Lam­bic filled me with hor­ror. I then fol­lowed the link and saw it was anoth­er Rev­e­la­tion Cat pro­duc­tion. I hes­i­tate to crit­i­cise any­thing I’ve not tried but if it’s any­thing like the oth­er mess­ing about with lam­bic that RC does then it could well be quite dis­gust­ing (their (in)famous dry hopped lam­bics at both GBBF and Borefts a cou­ple of years back were unut­ter­ably vile).

    1. (Just cor­rect­ed a typo – the worst kind that changes the sense of the sen­tence – in the Islay lam­bic para­graph.)

      Re: their dry-hopped lam­bics – is it a flawed idea or did poor exe­cu­tion ren­der it vile?

      1. That’s a moot point. Gen­er­al con­sen­sus was that they had tak­en per­fect­ly good lam­bics and ruined them. Not quite sure how you would exe­cute dry hop­ping so poor­ly to pro­duce the ter­ri­ble beers that result­ed, so I will stick my neck out and say the con­cept is at fault.

        On the Islay cask issue. one or two cider mak­ers have tried putting their prod­ucts in them and the ones I have tried so far have been a ter­ri­ble mess. If mas­ter cider mak­ers like Kevin Minchew can’t pull it off (and he could­n’t in the opin­ion of those who tried it) then again I think we have to look at the con­cept rather then the exe­cu­tion.

        1. It does­nt sur­prise me that a dry ho[[ed lam­bic did­nt work. It flys in the face of the whole way beer is bal­lanced. Lam­bic beers use acid­i­ty to bal­lance what malt char­ac­ter and body they have , adding more hops seems doomed to push the bal­lance off the edge and into the deep.

  2. Every­thing that is con­sid­ered clas­sic and tra­di­tion­al today, might have been seen as inno­v­a­tive and ground­break­ing at some point. Some of the things that are con­sid­ered inno­v­a­tive and ground­break­ing today might be seen as clas­sic and tra­di­tion­al some time in the future. (not to men­tion that, if you’ve read your his­to­ry, many, if not most of the things tout­ed as inno­v­a­tive and ground­break­ing were kind of nor­mal in the past)

  3. I had an old beer tonight. It was very nice and tra­di­tion­al. Not a ground­break­ing rev­e­la­tion, but it was bet­ter than a cer­tain brew­ery’s apple fruit ale by a mil­lion miles…

    I also had a Black IPA from York­shire. It was excel­lent. Not a groun­break­ing rev­e­la­tion but it was bet­ter than a cer­tain brew­ery’s wide­ly avail­able Eng­lish themed ale by a mil­lion miles.…

    Keep drink­ing both and Bob’s your Aun­ty I reck­on. When you start wor­ry­ing that some­thing is too ground­break­ing or isn’t ground­break­ing enough you start for­get­ting to like beer.

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